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Uinise Tulikihakau

Uinise Tulikihakau

THIS IS MY STORY OF RESILIENCE

I’m a 51 year old widow who lost my husband nine years ago. My son was still very young when his father passed away and since then we have pretty much looked after each other and have survived many challenges on our own.

On the day of cyclone we did what we had to do to get ready for it and some of the things we did to prepare was based on the information given to us by our town officer. We were also following the cyclone updates on the radio so we were pretty much five steps ahead of what we were supposed to do in terms of preparation.

Later in the day we left our home in Houma ‘Eua and we went to our church to stay there overnight just to ensure we would be safe.

When we returned the next morning we just stood there and looked at the damage the cyclone had made to our home. About 80% of our home was ruined by the cyclone.

WE WERE JUST HAPPY TO BE BACK AT HOME EVEN IF IT MEANT SLEEPING AMONGST THE RUINS

I was determined not to return to our church to stay there because I didn’t want us to leave our home again. So I told my son that the quicker we move to clean up the better the chance we had to return home. We both snapped out of our mini-depression and we got to cleaning up straight away.

We had managed to fix enough of the damages to have just the right amount of space to sleep in our house that night. Despite the loss and the devastation of our home and some of our belongings we were just happy to be back at home, even if it meant sleeping amongst the ruins.

My son is still in high school. Every morning I take him to school then from there I go straight to the bush to our plantation.

Although my husband has passed away, that doesn’t mean I cannot do anything with our plantation. Ever since he passed away, I have continued going to the bush and when my son is not at school we go to the bush together. We have a plantation of yams and taro. We save some for our own consumption and cultural obligations and then we sell the rest to help us with our financial needs.

I also feed and look after piglets for sale. When my son and I need additional funds, we also sell some of our bigger piglets. Every Saturday we go to the bush and collect coconuts to return with it to our home to feed our pigs.

I also do some other work on the side. I make leis (necklaces) and send to the Hawaiian market for sale. They make orders and pay me for my leis by metre. This is our other financial support. I do this in the evenings and on the days I am not able to go to the plantation.

it really doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man, what matters is the determination, commitment and belief that you can do whatever you set your heart on to do.

I am doing this because of my son. I want to make sure that he does not miss out on an education and I don’t want him to feel fatherless. I want him to know that despite only having one parent, that I will do everything in my power to make sure he is provided for.

But it wasn’t easy you know, because my husband’s death was unexpected. I didn’t have to mourn or feel sorry for myself. I just looked at my son’s face and knew exactly what I had to do. I had access to resources, like the bush land and the piglets and so I was determined to show my son that I could continue looking after him and so I headed to the plantation and have never looked back since.

I do what I do because I want my son to also learn from it. I have shown him that despite the untimely death of his father, it really doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man, what matters is the determination, commitment and belief that you can do whatever you set your heart on to do.

I hope he uses this philosophy and applies it to his studies so that he can be just as determined and committed in his studies so he can develop a better life for himself.

Sometimes staying here on our own in our house I get scared, because we live near the bush. I am afraid of intruders because people know that its only the two of us who live here, or that someone might try and come and steal our pigs.

We still have no electricity, although I am working hard to get electricity to our home and to put up security lights all around. I am waiting until our kava plantation matures so I can sell it and get enough money to get electricity supply for our home and to put up a proper bathroom for us.

I am so thankful that after the cyclone, we are safe and that we have moved on with our normal life.

I will continue to do the things I am doing now until the day I die or when I am not able to do things anymore. It’s important that I do things that my son can learn from so that when I die, he will instil the same life lessons to his own life, that is my overall wish and hope for him.

Right now we really need drinking water. We own a water tank but it was affected by the cyclone and now it has no water in it.

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Note: Raising RURAL WOMEN’S VOICES in Tonga post Cyclone Gita is a multimedia initiative that has been developed to coincide with CSW62. This is part of our bigger media campaign: ’This is My Story of Resilience’ which aims at raising the voices of women in various spaces.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the key global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The CSW promotes women’s rights, documents the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shapes global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Each year, CSW organises discussions around key themes over a two-week period. This year, the 62nd CSW session has adopted the following themes:

  • CSW62 Priority Theme: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.
  • Review Theme: Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women.

Credits:

WCCC TONGA

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